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Human rights have made real difference over 20 years, Commission insists

14 September 2018

The Human Rights Act 1998 has made a positive difference in many contexts to the protection of people’s rights in Scotland since it was passed 20 years ago, the Scottish Human Rights Commission maintains.

In a briefing to the UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is conducting an inquiry into whether the Act has been effective since it became law, the Commission cites a number of case studies to show the difference the Act has made.

These include the Cadder case on legal representation in detention, the challenge to the use of temporary sheriffs, the requirement to disclose prosecution evidence and the ending of slopping out in Scotland's prisons.

The Commission further argues that the Act has "contributed significantly to the encouragement and development of a human rights culture in public bodies in Scotland". The Commission itself has supported a range of public bodies and providers of public services to embed human rights considerations into their decision making and delivery, including local authorities, the police, health and social care providers and monitoring and inspection bodies. "This work has been further strengthened through Scotland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights."

Judith Robertson, chair of the Commission, commented: "The Human Rights Act has benefited people in many settings from health and social care services to police custody to the media and safeguards on personal data.

"Its impact has been felt beyond the courtroom, with its provisions clearly helping to drive the continued development of a more proactive culture of protecting human rights across Scotland’s public sector.

"Our evidence to this inquiry shows why the legal enforceability of rights is a crucial part of making them meaningful in practice.
The bedrock of protection for rights provided by the Human Rights Act should be both maintained and built on to incorporate other international human rights standards into Scots law, in particular economic, social and cultural rights.”

Click here to view the full submission.

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